Crater Lake

2009.07.31 -- Crater Lake, OR

2009.07.31 -- Crater Lake, OR

2009.07.31 -- Crater Lake, OR

My other brother and a friend of the family were in Portland for the Brewfest.  They came out from South Carolina to drink beer, take photos, and explore Portland, Seattle, and Central Oregon.  We headed out to Bend last week and decided to take a trip to Crater Lake.  I’ve camped there several times before and it never gets any less amazing.

We left Bend in the morning and made it to the North end of Crater Lake by 8:30am.  We trekked down the trail to the water and watched a few people jump into the lake.  In fact, all four of us were armed with various Canon Digital SLRs and were nicknamed the “Paparazzi” by those watching us take photos of the jumpers.  Between the four of us, we probably took 50 shots per jump–except the first time, when after all of the shutters stopped clicking, we heard a beep coming from my brother’s camera.  A beep that comes from accidentally setting it to timer mode instead of multi-shot.

After making fun of him for a bit, we headed back up to the car and took a trip around Rim Drive.  We popped out along the way to take shots from different areas of the lake.  My Canon 10-22mm lens was very popular on the trip (and borrowed quite a bit), as you could fit most of the lake in the frame in a single shot.  It’s great for this kind of large area, but you have to be careful and not loose the scale of the lake–which can be very easy without any reference object in the shot: trees, buildings, people.

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival

Oregon Brewers Festival Media Preview 2009

Oregon Brewers Festival 2009

Oregon Brewers Festival 2009

Oregon Craft Beer Month is almost over–and it ends with a bang: the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF).  This year, I attended three events surrounding the festival: the Oregon Brewer’s Guild Dinner, the OBF Media Preview, and the OBF itself–all while draggin my camera and bag around.

The Brewer’s Guild Dinner was great.  There are a limited number of seats sold so it’s never over crowded, there are about 25 beers on tap that aren’t available at the OBF, there are beer celebrities galore, and the food is delicious.  All of this makes my job fun.  I get to walk around, drink great beer, and take photos.  For events like this, I usually use my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens to get shots of the crowd interactions without being intrusive.  If someone knows you’re shooting, they always behave differently.  For events like this, you want to capture spontaneous action and it’s much easier with a long lens.

The next day was the Media Preview.  We tried about 16 different beers that spanned styles from Raspberry Wheats to Stouts.  The pace wasn’t that quick, but juggling my camera, lenses, a notebook (and pen), and a beer slowed me down a bit and the beers seemed to come one right after another.  Not that big of a deal when your job for the day is drinking beer!

After that, it was the OBF itself.  We got there around noon, the lines were short, the beer was great, and we got our fill before it became too hot.  Attendance and beer consumption records were broken again this year and it was over before I knew it.

Photographing 52 Beers in a Year

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 34: Old Boardhead

52 Beers Group, Week 29: Alpha Dog Imperial IPA

52 Beers Group, Week 13: Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans

52 Beers Group, Week 31: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I enjoy beer.   It’s fun to sample, write about, and photograph.  Exactly 44 weeks ago, I joined the 52 Beers group on Flickr.   I don’t write reviews or document my beer intake in any way, but I took this on as a challenge to force myself to come up with new ways at looking at beer by photographing one new beer each week for a year.  To accomplish this, I had to ask myself a few questions: What makes a beer unique?  What makes a bottle or a label stand out?  What does beer mean to me?  What have I gotten myself into?

Taking photographs for fun and taking photographs professionally are two different monsters.  As much as I love photography, it doesn’t mean I want to have a camera in my hand around the clock.  It’s pretty heavy.  Plus, motivation does not strike all day, every day.   If I don’t have any appointments scheduled for the day, it’s fairly easy to watch a DVD, take a nap, and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering where my day went.  I can admit that. Evidently,  not just to myself,  but to anyone reading this.  I think a lot of people are like me in that respect,  so it’s important to set up challenges and exercises where I can be held accountable.

Well, I’m almost a full year into the project and what did I learn?  Well, I love beer.  I think that was already a fact though, so it doesn’t count.   First, I don’t have an expensive studio with unlimited lighting.  So, some were shot outside, some under random generic lamps, and others under a speedlight.  But lighting, although imperative, was secondary to me for this project.  The overriding element was composition.  Show the beer?  Show the head?  Show the bottle?  Show the glass?  Show the growler?

  • Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brrr:  I got a sample bottle in the mail, but things didn’t come together until I bough a six pack off the shelves.  What typifies “Brrr” more than huddling together?
  • Full Sail Brewing, Old Boardhead: Simple label, complex beer.  I happened to be drinking it when I got a phone call.  When I got back to the beer, late afternoon light had come through the window and lit the beer through the glass.  It was nice, but a flashlight exaggerated the effect and created the shot I wanted: a complex tasting beer that was also complex visually.
  • Laughing Dog, Alpha Dog Imperial IPA: The analog TTV treatment seemed to work with the bottle design and the glass of beer in the background.  I didn’t think about it while I was shooting it, but the lpha Dog is definitely gaurding the beer in the background.  Sometimes, things just come together.
  • Liefman’s Goudenband:  I decided a dyptych would be the best option to show the label from the front as well as the twisted tissue presentation layer.  It’s very unique packaging, and very important ot feature it.
  • Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid: Not everything has to be planned.  I was playing dominos, drinking Hop Stoopid, and my camera was nearby.  End of story.

The Fourth of July

2008.07.04 - Fourth of July

2008.07.04 - Fourth of July

With my tripod out on loan, I went outside with my monopod and a fast f1.4 lens on the fourth of July to explore the street fireworks in my neighborhood.  I was also equipped with high hopes, but those were quickly dashed by a few test shots that had me steadying my monopod for around 10 seconds to get an exposure.  Needless to say, it didn’t work.  All was not lost though–at least I know better for next year.

Last year, I went outside and took a few shots of the Vancouver fireworks as well as some neighbors down the street.  I cursed my location.  I cursed the cables in the sky.  I cursed my shadow–twice.  But I pressed on, and I’m really happy with the results.  Now, I won’t be winning any awards for these–or selling any prints for that matter–but the photos are special to me.  Attempts to beautify the photos or set up the perfect composition failed, but it did so elegantly.

Capturing perfect fireworks was not my intention (nor was it even a possibility shooting from my front yard).  I didn’t really have any intentions.  What I ended up with is a capture of my neighborhood during a distinct event–a good sense of personal time and place.

But why black and white, especially for fireworks?  Well, I wanted to make sure that the fireworks weren’t too overpowering in the shot.  I wasn’t in a good enough spot to make the fireworks the focus of the shot.  The black and white conversion decentralized the focus and makes the eye wander, searching the photograph.  Trying to push the viewer in this direction, allows for more exploration of the photograph, and inevitably more questions about my intentions.

It’s often important to have a clear theme and intention, and the viewer can appreciate and concentrate on the details of your work.  With more personal photos such as these, it was more important to capture a moment in time.  Forcing viewers to ask questions like “Why was this shot in black and white?” will hopefully allow them to consider my intentions and get closer to the truth of the photo.  And the truth is different for every viewer, every interpretation.  So the longer you can hold someone’s attention, the closer they’ll get to their own truth.

Or, that’s just a long-winded, made-up, pompous, way to describe an arbitrary set of photos.  I guess it just comes down to the simple fact that I like the photos.  Sometimes the simplest, least “artistic” shots are my favorites.

Happy Belated Father’s Day

neilily_ttv_04 copy

Belated Father's Day

Belated Father's Day

Belated Father's Day

My brother.  What can I say?  We’ve got history.  We’ve got a future.  We’ve got the same mother–I think.  No blood tests have been performed, but the rumors are very strong.

If things never changed, I wouldn’t get sentimental.  I wouldn’t miss my “go drink a beer at the nod of the head” brother.  I wouldn’t miss my “roommate” brother.  I wouldn’t miss my “doctorate at the age of ten” brother (you’re welcome).  And I surely wouldn’t miss my “I answer my phone” brother (seriously dude, pick up your damn phone).

Things change.  I changed.  My brother changed.  I complained a little–and still complain now and then.  When I do, it’s because I’ve lost a bit of power over him.  The influence that I squandered has been replaced by other obligations.  Unfortunately, those obligations don’t revolve around me.  Fortunately for him though, those obligations don’t revolve around me.

The set to the right include three different interactions between my brother Neil and his daughter Lily: protection, compassion, confusion, vigilance, understanding, love, commitment, not understanding, fear, playfulness, and exhaustion–all within a few hours of the same day.  They may not be the most glamorous captures, but they are a moment in time, from eyes that he doesn’t have time look through.  Oh, and the compression of these images is horrible, make sure to click on the images and check out  larger sizes.

Unfortunately, my brother is just my brother.  It’s still strange to think of him as a father as well.  Because of this, the only thought I had this Father’s Day was of my dad.  While he deserves a pat on the back, he’s in the easy phase: he can shrug and say “I’m not responsible anymore”.  But it’s my brother, as a new father, who needs the most help and well wishes at the beginning of this journey.

I’m sorry I missed it. Happy Belated Father’s Day.  You’re doing just fine.

Baltic / Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

I was asked to attend and photograph a Baltic / Imperial Porter tasting tonight at Upright Brewing.  I don’t mind mixing work with pleasure, especially when it comes to beer, but the physical aspects of holding a glass and shooting photos can be tricky at best.  Couple this with the fact that we are gathering in the basement of a building with uneven lighting and there can be some issues.

I used my 50mm 1.4 for most of the night because of the low light where the taps (and hence, most of the people) were gathered.  I also used my 10-22mm around the brewing equipment where there was much more light available.

It took about two hours to go through the photos tonight with selection and remastering.  Make sure to click on the photos to see the larger versions as the tones and brightness are compressed in the thumbnails to the right.  Great night, awesome beers, and now it’s late and I want to go to sleep.

The Ten Percent Rule

Widmer Brothers 25th Anniversary Double Alt

One obvious advantage of shooting digital is the almost unrestricted amount of shots I can get.  I usually carry about 20GB worth of cards around with me, so it’s shoot, shoot, shoot.  Because of this, I can take chances with different lenses, various angles, and unlimited compositions.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a familiar formula popping up when I take photos.  I call it the Ten Percent Rule.  It’s pretty simple.  Out of all of the images I shoot during a session–an event, a game, a hike–I’ll be happy with about 10 percent of the photos.  Out of the final 10 percent, I’ll be very happy with 10 percent of those.  So, if I shoot 900 photos during a game, I’ll send about 90 to my publishers, and end up with about 9 shots that I really love.  Or if I go for a hike, take 100 photos, I’ll end up posting about 10 for people to see with one exceptional shot.

Once I realized this pattern popping up in my photography, I put it to good use.  If a client wants 20 final photos of their business, I know that I should be shooting around 200 photos.  Now, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a good benchmark.  If I finish that client’s shoot and realize that I’ve only taken 50 total shots, I’ve got a lot more work to do.

With a 90% “waste” rate, I’m lucky that I love post-production.  There’s a lot of sitting, sorting, tagging, and eliminating photos after the shoot.  After shooting a two hour game, I spend about three to four hours of post production going through and remastering the final photos.  This isn’t a very glamorous aspect of my job, but for some reason I enjoy it as much as taking the photos.

Maybe in a few years, I’ll get good enough to rename the rule to the Twenty Percent Rule.  For now, I’m happy with ten percent and very happy that no one else knows where to find the other ninety percent of the photos I take!

Goodbye Portland LumberJax!

2009.03.29 - LumberJax v. San Jose Stealth

2009.01.23 - LumberJax v. Edmonton Rush

2009.04.17 - LumberJax v. Calgary Roughnecks

Well, it’s been kind of slow around here lately, though I’ve been extremely busy.  I’m pretty sure that those two concepts are related.  Ideally, I’d like to post whether I’m busy or not, but blogging usually takes a back seat to my other projects.  Unfortunately, this is a post about bad news–at least for Portland lacrosse fans like me.  The demise of the Portland LumberJax has been confirmed.  Owner Angela Batinovich stated that she was looking into moving the Jax to a new venue, but that looks pretty unlikely at this point.

Despite growing number of fans, the economy has played a devastating role in declining sponsorship. Add this to the huge costs of operating at the Rose Garden, and you can see a bleak financial outlook for owners and investors. With a huge National Lacrosse League franchise fee and other startup costs, the big hit was supposed to come at the beginning of the 2006 season, when the LumberJax started here in Portland. After that, the following years of ticket sales and sponsorships are supposed to make up for that loss and then in later seasons, start actually seeing a profit. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for the LumberJax.

There are thousands of fans who are just as disappointed as I am, wondering where they’re going to get their LAX fix. I spent the first two seasons in the stands with the rest of the crowd, but then decided to take a leap and talk with the team about becoming a photographer. Everything worked out, and I became a photographer for the NLL, shooting LumberJax home games at the Rose Garden. During that season, I managed to get several online publications and a couple of billboards around Portland. During the 2009 season, I became a freelance photographer for and Inside Lacrosse magazine, as well as other local and national sports outlets.

Without the LumberJax, I wouldn’t have been able to start my photography career at the professional level. It was a great opportunity for me, and I made the best use of the two seasons that I photographed at the Rose Garden. I wish I was going back to photograph next season, but maybe this was just a gateway sport for me.

Portland LumberJax v. San Jose Stealth Playoffs

2009.05.01 LumberJax v. San Jose Stealth

2009.05.01 LumberJax v. San Jose Stealth

2009.05.01 LumberJax v. San Jose Stealth

Tonight’s game was the last game of the year for the Portland LumberJax. A loss to the San Jose Stealth in the playoffs ended their Season. It was great to have a playoff game at home, but it wasn’t the ending that the fans had hoped for.

I left at halftime tonight. Since this playoff game was scheduled in the last two weeks, I had to squeeze it into my busy weekend. Normally, on game nights, I’m up until about 3:00am, spending hours on post-production and getting the photos off to my publishers. Tomorrow, I have to be up at out of the house by 7:00am and being up until 3:00am tonight could be quite a hassle. So, I left early in hopes of finishing up by midnight.

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Last weekend, I had an overnight assignment in Astoria.  And guess what?  Yep, it involved beer.  I was sent out to explore the beer scene in Astoria and meet the movers and shakers, and of course, drink a lot of great beer!

Even though I retired my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens to the studio, I can’t seem to live without it.  A couple of months ago, it was knocked off the players bench at the Rose Garden while shooting a Portland LumberJax training session.  Both auto-focus and the focus ring were broken, but the glass was intact.  So, while the photos turn out fine, I have to manually focus by pulling and pushing the end of the lens in and out!  It’s really not convenient, but I don’t have a replacement for it yet.  For still shots of objects, it’s not a problem.  But when people are involved, it’s hard to capture that spontaneous moment when it takes 7 seconds to pull or push and fumble with a broken lens!  Oh well, glad to have it, even with it’s flaws.

On Saturday, I met with the brewers of Fort George Brewing Company and Astoria Brewing Company–and then proceeded to drink a lot of beer.  From noon to 5:00pm, we drank an assortment of over twenty beers in samples, pints, and goblets.  I’m glad I had a notebook and a camera to document it all, because I will be relying heavily on those to piece together my article.  Usually, I’m not so excited to work on the weekends, but there was no downside to this weekend!